For over two weeks, we push all boundaries of healthy family bonding time by stuffing our togetherness into a minivan with every nook and cranny crammed with boxes of cheap travel toys, snacks, laundry detergent and a very minimal wardrobe for each family member. (Except Lance, voted “most likely to overpack” by his wife.)
In addition the overly-full-minivan, our accommodations are often past capacity throughout the trip. While I love to experience a city’s unique personality through its’ local lodging, we also like to balance the hard work of this trip with the reliable amenities we find at both Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. These places are similar in many ways, but Hampton Inn is a little bit more expensive (and also a little nicer). Both suit our family well, so the decision was often made on the road based on location & availability. We try to find an occasional local spot throughout our long travels. Keep reading!
Specifically, What Type of Accommodations Do We Use?
Since we have a large family of little people (with 4 kids ages 6-12), we can lodge in one of the following: a one-bedroom double queen, two adjacent/connecting double queens, a family suite, and often times with a pull-out-sofa or rollaway. Sometimes we scrimp and sometimes we splurge on accommodations, based on our mood and plans for the next day. We travel with 2 sleeping bags because we often find one or two people might need to sleep on the floor. Extra pillows are not necessary. Laundry Services are a must for our travels. Swimming pools are also important for family morale.
The Route (Part 1):
Boone & Blowing Rock, NC
Our first night of travel was a short overnight stay and a deep stretch on the campus of Appalachian State. Our trip began during final days of May, so the rhododendrons of North Carolina were showing off in the most magnificent way. This was a simple and quick stay, so we missed we didn’t explore much of Boone or Blowing Rock. We were pleased with our stay in the Meadowbrook Inn, and took off early the next morning for Virginia!
New England is rich with American history, but with young children, we knew we had to pace ourselves with the history lessons. We enjoyed a tour of the historic Mitchie Tavern & Monticello, and had a good run on the lawn of UVA. (Monticello and the UVA Rotunda both designed by self-taught architect – and President, Thomas Jefferson). We ate a great dinner at The Local, but if we had longer, I’d love to eat at all the yummy restaurants listed here and here. Next Trip to Virginia, we will have to check out the things we missed: Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon or some of these or these other places!
Philadelphia was a beautiful place, so full of symbolism for our country. And by the way, I love symbolism.) We began our time experiencing the historic sites of downtown – the Liberty Bell and the U.S. Mint, Although still unable to engage my family in testing out of New England seafood, I finally coerced them into a communal testing of a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia. Since I have two gluten-free in my family (one with Celiac Disease and another who is gluten-sensitive), we searched for the best gluten free cheesesteak and settled on Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop. While in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philly, I grabbed a coffee at the coolest coffee shop – La Columbe. We just scratched the surface in Philadelphia. Next time we visit, I’m using all of these lists as a resource! Try this or this or this or this guide. Or this and this and this for food! Or check out this instagram worthy spots listed here!
I can’t say much about Delaware. I’m sure it’s lovely. We stopped for a stretch. I’m sure one of you can tell me what to do in Delaware. Right?
Cape May, New Jersey
Many of our destinations came not through research, but through a quick and informal polling of friends. I had no other knowledge of many of travel spots outside of their name. So it was with great surprise to discover the charming and quiet streets of Cape May, full of Victorian houses, bright colors, and inviting front porches. We were happy with our stay at the beachfront Inn of Cape May, the oldest hotel in town with weaving halls and tiny rooms that suited our family quite well. (Congress Hall is also a highly recommended hotel). This point in our tour began to be peppered by the occasional seaport lighthouse, a novelty for a Southern-born-and-raised-family like mine. We spent the evening at play on the water, and took to the water the next morning, with Miss Avalon’s Dolphin Tour. The deep sea fishing tour was highly recommended to us, although it was a longer expedition on the water, so was not the most suitable for our family.
On our way to Rhode Island, we briefly stopped through the areas of Mystic & Seaport, Connecticut. I popped into the super-charming M/Bar for a cup of coffee and design inspiration, of which they had plenty of both. I highly recommend the area, although we didn’t spend much time, it looks like there are several ways to enjoy the city. Not to mention, this is the home of the famous pizza shop (you might remember its’ namesake movie, Mystic Pizza!) We stumbled upon a book sale at their stunning library. Here are some other suggestions of things to do in Mystic Country!
So that is it for now! I can’t wait to share with you the rest of our trip and my FAVORITE new-to-me-city!